Lance Zierlein's Z-report

Demaryius Thomas trade helps Texans now and later

Thomas will be called on to take Will Fuller's spot in the offense. Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Texans sucked…. and then they didn’t. Like that, the Texans went from a three game losing streak to a five game winning streak and for the first time all season, the offense exploded with big performances on the ground and through the air.

With the way the AFC South is trending, it is very apparent that this is the Texans division to lose and they showed before the trade deadline that they have no desire to let that happen. With Will Fuller out for the year with an ACL tear, the Texans made a move that should help them this year and might be an important move for the near future.

The move for now

Will Fuller’s mere presence on the field is extremely important to the Texans offense because his speed alters how defenses can align against the Texans. When Fuller is on the field, safeties have to respect his speed and that forces safeties off the line of scrimmage which helps the running game. Fuller also has the ability to stretch the field and hit “chunk plays” down the field which is a key element in the Texans offense going from pedestrian to explosive.

While Demaryius Thomas doesn’t have the same speed as Will Fuller (and isn’t as good a player at this juncture of his career), he is still a big body with the ability to compete for the deep ball against smaller cornerbacks. It’s also worth noting that Thomas is a quality blocker in the running game and can help spring the wide-flowing run plays to his side.

The Texans had to make a move. They had to. They have no real wide receiver depth and they needed to find a respectable target that defenses had to respect opposite DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller wasn’t a big, physical receiver, but Thomas is and that could also help with the success rate in the redzone for the Texans.

The move for later

Can the Texans trust Will Fuller’s health? In order, starting from his rookie season, Fuller has missed, 2, 6, and now 9 games (by season’s end). Fuller isn’t a big guy so worrying about how he holds up to the physical nature of the game is obviously a concern. The bigger concerns might be that these soft tissue injuries are creeping in every year and can be re-aggravated.

We all love what Fuller has brought to the table as an explosive target and his substantially improved hands were one of the best stories of the year. By giving up a fourth round pick, the Texans appear to be ready to take on Thomas for the near future. Thomas will cost the Texans $14M next year if they want him to play out his contract. Or, they could look to give him a contract extension of two or three years and lower that base contract.

Don’t get me wrong, the Texans could let Thomas walk after this year, but I can’t see them giving up a 4th round pick for a rental player. With Thomas on the team next season, you have a strong four-man rotation with KeKe Coutee, Fuller, Thomas, Hopkins when all are healthy, and you still have a good two-man tandem when Coutee and Fuller are out again.

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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